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PORT INVESTIGATION

Lawyers for ex-interior minister reportedly file complaint requesting Bitar’s removal from Beirut port investigation probe

Lawyers for ex-interior minister reportedly file complaint requesting Bitar’s removal from Beirut port investigation probe

The attorneys for MP and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk reportedly filed a legal complaint on Friday to the Beirut Court of Appeals to remove Judge Tarek Bitar as investigator of the Beirut port explosion probe. (Credit: Ibrahim Osman)

BEIRUT – The attorneys for MP and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk filed a legal complaint on Friday to the Beirut Court of Appeals to remove Judge Tarek Bitar as investigator of the Beirut port explosion probe, documents circulating on local media show.

Here's what we know:

    • This news comes after lawyers for ex-Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos, whom Bitar has charged with criminal negligence, requested on Wednesday that the Court of Cassation remove the judge from the case due to “legitimate suspicion” of his neutrality. Fenianos currently has a warrant out for his arrest after he failed to show up for questioning last week.

    • Machnouk had been summoned for questioning in the probe earlier this week, along with former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, who are also both sitting MPs.

    • Legal immunity afforded to parliamentarians is temporarily lifted from the three MPs, who thus far have leveraged that immunity to avoid cooperating with the probe. Lebanese law dictates that this immunity lapses during the period from when a new cabinet received Parliament’s confidence, which happened on Monday, until Parliament’s opening session, which is scheduled for Oct. 19.

    • Khalil and Zeaiter, both Amal MPs, were previously charged with criminal negligence and summoned for questioning by the investigating judge preceding Bitar, Fadi Sawwan. Sawwan was dismissed from the investigation in February due to “legitimate suspicion” over the decision’s legality after the two MPs challenged the summons and asked for him to be replaced.

    • The Beirut explosion investigation has dragged on for more than a year as Bitar has repeatedly run into red tape in questioning high-level Lebanese officials. Bitar has so far arrested the former operations head at the Beirut port, Sami Hussein, after interrogating him for five hours, and senior customs official Hani Haj Shehadeh after questioning him for six hours.

    • Families of the victims of the explosion, which killed at least 218 people, gathered on Friday outside the Beirut Justice Palace in support of Bitar, condemning the threats he reportedly received from Hezbollah this past week and the attempts made by legislators to discredit him and dismiss him from the investigation.


BEIRUT – The attorneys for MP and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk filed a legal complaint on Friday to the Beirut Court of Appeals to remove Judge Tarek Bitar as investigator of the Beirut port explosion probe, documents circulating on local media show.Here's what we know:     • This news comes after lawyers for ex-Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos, whom Bitar has...